Mr. Hari's article is interesting, though it avoids what I believe is a more important issue: realistic verifiability of CO2 offsets. As delightfully easy and abstract as CO2 offsets may seem, where they break down is in the practical world of verifiable results. As an attorney, engineer and opinion columnist, I look first for verifiable facts, and that is what CO2 offsets fundamentally lack. It's far too easy to cook the numbers.
For that reason, I believe we must more directly address the two biggest sources of CO2: consumer demand for electric power and consumer demand for transportation.
In both instances, it is far more beneficial to build renewable energy sources in the United States rather than play math games with offsets. In that way we gain the benefit of actual reductions that continue as long as the wind or solar power production unit, vital construction, manufacturing and maintenance employment, and control over the actual offsets.
What seems to sit at the center of Mr. Hari's concerns is the fact that as we make abstract our responses to climate change, we lose track of what is actually accomplished and lose the ability to audit and account for the efficiency of our responses. I want the most CO2 reduction for the dollar, and without a means of verifying results, that is impossible.
While rainforest groups would certainly want to be able to justify and rationalize the use of rainforests as offsets in the climate change effort, such strategies are akin to hostage taking. As anyone knows, the more valuable the hostage, the higher the price one must pay; in this case, the price will continue to rise even as the amount of CO2 emissions prevented do not. Eventually, the forests become too valuable as wood to be protected.
As a columnist, I have written extensively about the contradictory behavior of certain environmental groups opposing renewable energy projects, specifically wind projects. This behavior sends the wrong message to the world when it comes to climate change, suggesting that everything else is more important. However, time is not on our side.